Red deer is well-known deer species.
It is found most of Europe, the Caucasus Mountains region, Asia Minor, Iran, parts of western Asia, and central Asia. It is also found the Atlas Mountains region between Morocco and Tunisia in northwestern Africa, being the only species of deer to inhabit Africa.
Red deer habitats include open woodlands and avoid dense unbroken forests. Red deer can be found in coniferous swamps, clear cuts, aspen-hardwood forests, and coniferous-hardwood forests. They are found through a wide range of elevations, typically from sea level to 3000 m (9,850 feet), although they can also occur at higher elevations.
Red deer live over 20 years in captivity and in the wild they live 10 to 13 years, though some subspecies with less predation pressure average 15 years.
The red deer is one of the largest deer species.
The male (stag) red deer is typically 175 to 250 cm (69 to 98 in) long and weighs 160 to 240 kg (350 to 530 lb) The female (hind) is 160 to 210 cm (63 to 83 in) long and weighs 120 to 170 kg (260 to 370 lb). The tail adds another 12 to 19 cm (4.7 to 7.5 in) and shoulder height is about 95 to 130 cm (37 to 51 in).
Only the stags have antlers, which start growing in the spring and are shed each year, usually at the end of winter. Antlers typically measure 71 cm (28 in) in total length and weigh 1 kg (2.2 lb), although large ones can grow to 115 cm (45 in) and weigh 5 kg (11 lb). Antlers, which are made of bone, can grow at a rate of 2.5 cm (1 in) a day.
Its coat is reddish brown, darkening to grayish brown in winter, with lighter underparts and a light rump. During the autumn, all red deer subspecies grow thicker coats of hair, which helps to insulate them during the winter.
Red deer are browsers feeding on grasses, sedges, and forbs in summer and woody growth in the winter months.
Red deer are ruminant animals and therefore regurgitate their food and remasticate to aid in digestion. This is also known as chewing cud.
Red deer browse in the early morning and late evening . They are inactive during the day and the middle of the night, when they spend most of their time chewing their cud.
Red deer are social animals; they live in summer herds with as many as 400 individuals. These herds are matriarchal and are dominated by a single cow. Seasonal migrations occur elevationally, with red deer being found at higher elevations during summer, and migrating to lower elevations during winter.
Shortly before the fall rut, in late September and early October, male red deer lose the velvet on their antlers and begin to compete for access to females. Dominant males are able to maintain larger harems of females and restrict access to them.
Gestation generally lasts between 240 and 262 days and results in a single birth (twins are rare). Just after birth, a cow and her calf will live alone for several weeks. At 16 days the calf is able to join the herd, and weaning is completed within 60 days.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies the red deer as a species of least concern; however, it considers some of the approximately 20 subspecies threatened because of hunting pressure and habitat loss. Some subspecies from North America and Eurasia have also declined because of interbreeding with nonnative red deer subspecies.
The closely related and slightly larger elk or wapiti, native to North America and eastern parts of Asia, had been regarded as a subspecies of red deer, but recently it has been established as a distinct species.
Red deer are widely depicted in cave art found throughout European caves, with some of the artwork dating from as early as 40,000 years ago, during the Upper Paleolithic.
Siberian cave art from the Neolithic of 7,000 years ago has abundant depictions of red deer, including what can be described as spiritual artwork, indicating the importance of this mammal to the peoples of that region.
In medieval hunting, the red deer was the most prestigious quarry, especially the mature stag, which in England was called a hart.
The meat of the deer is called venison and is widely considered to be both flavourful and nutritious. It is higher in protein and lower in fat than either beef or chicken.